A ‘balanced’ meal for an athlete is hugely important for both optimal health and performance, so it’s a good idea to know what types of foods to prepare that will give you what’s required. Below you’ll find a number of excellent ideas for balanced meals across breakfast, lunch & dinner.
Balanced meals provide athletes with:
- Carbohydrates for energy to help prepare and recover from training
- Protein to help muscles repair and recover
- Fats for long-term energy, joint lubrication, vitamin absorption and hormone production
- Vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and well
Some athletes find themselves stuck eating the same food combinations because they know it’s nutritious and balanced, however then get bored of the lack variety in their diet.
So if you find yourself wondering what else you can eat, build your meals by including a food from each of these four key groups:
- Lean protein +
- High-fibre carbohydrates +
- Micronutrients/vegetables +
- Small amounts of fats
Below are some examples of how to mix and match different combinations of carbs, proteins, vegetables and fats to increase your variety of balanced meals.
Note that portion size and ratios of each group will vary depending on body size, goals and activity level.
Breakfast is an important meal and it’s good to understand why athletes should eat breakfast.
- Wholegrain/high fibre cereal + cows milk or protein-enriched and calcium-fortified milk alternative. Here’s some information to help decide which milk is best for you
- Wholegrain/sourdough toast + tomato + cheese – sliced, cottage or ricotta
- Fruit toast + ricotta or Greek yoghurt
- Wholegrain/sourdough toast + shaved ham + tomato + mushrooms + avocado
- Eggs (poached/scrambled/boiled) + spinach + avocado + wholegrain/sourdough toast
- Porridge + milk or Greek yoghurt + crushed nuts/seeds/natural peanut butter + banana
- Bircher muesli + Greek yoghurt + berries
- French toast + avocado + vegetable sides
- Smoothie with fresh fruit + Greek yoghurt or Musashi protein powder + mall handful of nuts or seeds + spinach/kale (or any other veg). Learn how to build a nutritious smoothie with different combinations
- Wholegrain/sourdough toast + baked beans and sliced cheese
- Omelette with spinach, mushrooms and tomato + wholegrain/sourdough toast
- Wholegrain/sourdough toast + natural peanut butter or vegemite + a tub of Greek yoghurt or Musashi protein shake
- Green vegetable bowl with roasted sweet potato + sautéed kale + poached eggs + flaked almonds
- Sandwiches on wholegrain/sourdough bread + lean meat + salad + avocado (mix and match for endless combinations –
- Wrap + lean meat or cheese + salad or leftover cooked vegetables (who says you can’t put broccoli in a wrap)
- Garden salad + roast vegetables + mixed legumes + chopped almonds
- Garden salad + sweet potato + grilled chicken or tinned tuna or tofu + drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Here’s 14 delicious and nutritious salad combinations for athletes
- Pasta salads filled mostly with vegetables + chicken or tuna (avoid versions with creamy dressings)
- Sushi with grilled chicken or salmon + seaweed salad and/or edamame on the side
- Brown rice, cous cous or quinoa salad + fresh or roast vegetable + lean meat eaten cold
- Baked potato + baked beans or legumes + salad + avocado
- Vegetable soup + ham and cheese toastie on wholegrain/sourdough bread
- Wholegrain toast + hommus + avocado + cherry tomato + feta + dukkah sprinkle
- Grilled lean meat + chargrilled vegetables or salad + baked potatoes OR crusty bread to serve
- Stir fried vegetables + chicken, beef or pork + noodles or rice
- Tomato and roasted vegetable pasta + chicken (could use leftovers or BBQ chicken)
- Tuna in extra virgin olive oil stirred through pasta + green beans or other vegetables
- Slow-cooked casseroles with potatoes and vegetables (all in one)
- Egg frittata with sliced sweet potato + zucchini, capsicum and feta cheese
- Spaghetti bolognese with a salad on the side or lots of vegetables included in the sauce (think grated carrot and zucchini, or even lentils)
- Lasagna made with cheese or ricotta and salad to serve, or include vegetables in the layers
- Potato pie with a minced beef or pork and vegetable base + extra veg to serve
- Curries made with lean meat, light coconut milk, lots of vegetables and basmati rice
- Grilled fish with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli and asparagus
- Homemade pizza using a wrap for the base + zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, tomato, spinach, mushrooms + some leftover lean meat and small amount cheese
- Homemade burger using a wholemeal bread roll + homemade rissole + salad vegetables + hommus or avocado as a sauce
- Burrito bowls with lean mince or lentil sauce + cheese + rice or corn + tomato, onion, capsicum + guacamole
- Lentil dahl with light coconut milk + snow peas, bok choy, eggplant + basmati rice or crusty breadMake extra serves of pasta, curries and casseroles and freeze for a convenient balanced meal to eat later.
Make extra serves of pasta, curries and casseroles and freeze for a convenient balanced meal to eat later, or to take as packed lunch the next day.
Find these suggestions helpful? If you did, here’s 36 snack ideas for athletes that might be useful.